Facts are boring. Stories are Compelling.
The human mind is constructed for telling and listening to stories. It’s just how our brains work. We are hard-wired in that way.
Mark McKinnon, a leading political strategist recently told the New York Times you can’t win an election without storytelling.
“Good stories win. Campaigns without a story lose.”
Noted trial lawyer Gerry Spence told a group of lawyers they will only capture a jury’s attention if they present their case as a story.
“Of course it is all story telling — nothing more. It is the experience of the tribe around the fire, the primordial genes excited, listening — the old warrior, his voice alive, rising with the flames, now whispering away, hinting at the secret …”
The same principle is true for public relations professionals. A PR professional succeeds when he or she develops a convincing story, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Yes, reporters like data and survey results, but the data too must tell a story to entice the interest of a reporter. Journalists want their articles to have a human angle, and those articles are referred to as “stories” for good reason. Stories are ultimately about people, and reporters know the human angle draws in and engages readers.
The art of story telling as applied to the process of media strategy forces one to go beyond the facts of a case and get to the passion that drove the result. Also in order to make the story compelling, it must incorporate multiple characters. One may need to speak with several people because each person has his own perspective on the events and it’s results.
Finding the great stories begins with having great conversations. And great conversations begin with questions, which encourage dialogue and allow for greater, or deeper, understanding. I have found the longer the conversation, the more passionate people become about their role in the story, and then more details are revealed, ones that may not found in any court document or quickly uncovered by a brief phone or water cooler conversation. Asking great questions helps build a narrative that tells a persuasive story that media outlets will turn into something that will be talked about by the public. And, if you are lucky, it may go viral.
In the end, in order to find a great story, you have to be a great storyteller.